Book Review

November, 2012 - Beta Book Review 2 stars


Flight of Shadows

Beta by Rachel Cohn

I'm a dystopian junkie. I can't get enough of them. I was really looking forward to reading Beta which appears to be a dystopia/sci-fi mix, but it turned out to be a colossal disappointment. I'm giving it two stars instead of one because the concept was terrific but the execution of the story fell totally flat.

Beta started out with an interesting premise: On a island built around luxury, dead humans are cloned and created to serve in a variety of positions. These clones, while functioning like their human counterparts are missing a very important component: a soul. They function, but they don't taste, wish or feel. They are mimics programmed to serve and please their human masters.

The main character of Beta is an untested clone, one of the first teenage "experimental" models - a Beta named Elysia. She is born, not knowing who she is, learning about the world around her by accessing the chip implanted in her brain and slowly acclimating to her role of servitude. She is a "good girl" doing what she was programmed to do and fitting into her new family in a role not unlike a pet.

The first part of the book was intriguing. Elysia seems to be very good at certain things like swimming and diving...holdovers from her "First" - the person she was cloned from. She discovers she can taste. She experiences flashbacks of her previous, human life. She begins to realize she's different from the other clones. Maybe something is terribly wrong? And yet it feels so right! Elysia carries this secret with her - afraid of what it might mean. Perhaps she is defective...

Sadly, the story started falling apart as it progressed and felt like something a tween would write with wooden non-varied sentence structure that reminded me of a second grade primer. The potential to have a deep, meaningful, haunting narrative turned into something shallow sprinkled with sex scenes including a rape that did NOT fit the character who committed it (this is a DISNEY book??!!) and quotes like "blond surfer god". (Where is a spoon so I can gag myself?)

The insipid teen verbiage became a total distraction. Maybe it's that I'm not in the targeted age group for the novel, but I found it totally irritating.

The teen characters in the book are constantly getting high on "Raxia" and are flat representations of the spoiled rich. Almost all of the supporting characters are trite and predictable. The plot twists can be seen miles away and the story's credibility started unraveling about half-way through. There is also have a case of "insta-love" that is totally unconvincing (and drug-induced by the way) where by the 4th "date" they were ready to get intimate (and this is already after planning on running off together previously).

I also didn't care for the world building. I can see what the author was trying to do, but I found that it just wasn't believable and I didn't care about any of the characters other than the little sister Liesel and Elysia - but only at the beginning.

Of course the ending was a cliff-hanger but absolutely outlandish. There is only one element (which I won't mention since it's a spoiler) that had me the least bit curious about taking a look at the next book. I'm sure the readers who liked the story will be clamoring for the sequel.

Bottom line: If you are an adult who likes the dystopian YA book genre, Beta may not be a good fit. I see it appealing more to younger teens. Because of the gratuitous sex (that serves no purpose other than to titillate as far as I can tell), drugs, violence and lack of a real message - I don't think it's a good fit for that age group either.

There was so much potential with this book and yet it turned out to be so disappointing.

*I recieved a free copy of this book in exchange for my honest opinion.

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